CategoryGirls

As long as I’m doing the “remember that I have a blog” thing this year

I’m writing here about something that happened last fall; at the time my feelings about it were varied and fraught. In the early days of this web site, when no one read it, I would write about events in my romantic life in a very granular way. As this web site approaches middle age, when no one reads it, I have learned by example to be reluctant about sharing the specific and intimate with a world where search engines are used to destroy human beings. But this feels worth recording.

I am in love with my partner Kat, and we’ve been together for over three years. We live in different cities and we date other people sometimes. Kat has a girlfriend named Sophie, a wonderful writer who wrote a wonderful book about dating people other than the (wonderful) person she married. As part of promoting the book, Sophie submitted a column about falling for Kat to Modern Love, and that is how I ended up with a cameo in the New York Times.

Kat and I were actually in New Orleans for Sophie and Luke’s wedding when the American paper of record published details about my relationship that would be readily identifiable to anyone who knows either of us. The wedding was beautiful, and reading the column the morning after was surreal. I was simultaneously very elated and very worried that unforeseen consequences of the publication would come back to hurt me or the people I love.

Such consequences have not yet come to pass. No one has shunned or shamed or exposed me, and my fear has receded, leaving the elation behind. I’m the happiest I have been in any relationship and, despite my worries about the world’s future, I’m excited about our future. And if I was going to pop up in the Sunday NYT somehow, this is pretty much the best way I can imagine that turning out.

This isn’t even counting BAX, which would technically make this year’s begin in fucking February

There’s this thing called con season. It is mostly called that by people who make and sell things at conventions, which are warm-weather phenomena, beginning in March of each year and winding down in the autumn. I don’t currently sell things, but I find myself talking about it anyway, because con season has been the dictator of my travel plans for several years running.

There’s Gamestorm twenty minutes north of me, in Vancouver, Washington, and then there’s a local house-sized gathering called Nemocon in May. June sometimes has a Fabricated Realities in Olympia and always (I hope) has Go Play Northwest in Seattle. This year, for the first time, I am flying to Indianapolis to go to the nerd-gathering granddaddy, Gen Con. (It’s hard to explain exactly why I’m going in much the same way that it is hard to explain why Indianapolis holds a convention named for Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.) And then there’s PAX in September, and Geek Girl Con the month after that, unless I go to Indiecade too–and then at last we rest. Until it starts again.

It’s kind of grueling. I’m going to have to cut back in 2014: I want to travel more outside the US, and save money, and this shit devours that budget. But what do I cut? The answer would be easier if “what” didn’t so easily swap out for “whom.”

There are a lot of variations on the con circuit: some people do tech conferences, some people do sci-fi cons, some people do cultural gatherings or music festivals or films and documentaries. All these gatherings have a rationale for getting lots of people together at a specific time and place, but over time, I suspect, the rationale becomes just that. I used to go to gaming conventions to play as many games as I could fit into a weekend. Now I play games at gaming conventions because that’s what my friends are doing.

Weddings, funerals and cons. You don’t get together just to do the thing, you get together because the thing you do is the way to concentrate as many of these far-flung people as you can. Many of the people I love are locative: available in a specific place at at specific time and then too quickly dispersed. Jackson and Avery and Joe and PH and Matthew and Chris and Elizabeth and John and Shannon and Paul and Tony and Daniel and Twyla and Andi and Ryan and Lily and Will and Lisa and everyone I’m forgetting and everyone I have yet to meet. We only get so many rounds of this, in the warm season of our lives, and it’s hard to think about missing any of them.

Neuromancer, Page 169

“This ain’t bore and inject, it’s more like we interface with the ice so slow, the ice doesn’t feel it. The face kinda sleazes up to the target and mutates, so it gets to be exactly like the ice fabric. Then we lock on and the main programs cut in, start talking circles ’round the logics in the ice. We go Siamese twin on ’em before they even get restless.” The Flatline laughed.

—Wiliam Gibson describes my dating style

I knew I forgot something

Love Is Not Constantly Wondering If You Are Making The Biggest Mistake Of Your Life

This is the other book I read in 2011 that pierced me like a lancet: Love Is Not Constantly Wondering If You Are Making The Biggest Mistake Of Your Life. It took me a couple months to get to the point where I could write about it, and I am still well aware that I am not doing so from an objective platform.

I noticed it on a shelf at my friend Harry’s house when I went over, a couple days after the breakup, still a bit reely. “Oh,” he said, “yeah. Yeah. You should borrow that.” I later learned he’d only received it from our mutual friend Jackson a few days before; this makes sense, as Jackson is part magical creature. I did borrow it, took it “home” to the couch at Matt and Erika’s, and read it again and again.

It’s structured and formatted like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, down to the ink-sketch art style and fonts. The conceit is this: the page numbers are ordered chronologically, so if you read it according to the instructions, you’ll skip back and forth in time. Sometimes you’ll get into loops. Sometimes, unexpectedly, you’ll reach the end. This gives you the sensation of making choices, but of course the story never changes. You are as wrapped up in the illusion of choice as the protagonist. None of your decisions make any difference in the final outcome, and neither do his.

It’s the best marriage of form and fiction in any book I think I’ve read, and I am a known weakling for narrative tricks with time, but of course that’s not what really got to me. The book is about the beginning and slow end of a relationship between a nerdy guy who doesn’t drink and his beautiful girlfriend who does. The second half even takes place in Portland. Reading it was personal and cathartic, though I don’t mean to say that our stories are parallel: his lasts eight years, for one thing; for another, Anne in the book is an alcoholic and Kara is not. But that’s how catharsis works, right? You read the bigger story to move through the pain of your own small one.

I haven’t talked much about breaking up with Kara here, a trend that will continue, but I suppose this is an opportunity to mark it in the record. It was a sad and probably good thing, and it took too long, the problem being that we were happy together until the end. You can see it in the pictures I posted from our trip to Ireland, just a month before I moved out. It was a good trip. I have few regrets.

For a somewhat more distanced (but still very positive) review of LINCWIYAMTBMOYL, see Alison Hallett at the Mercury.

Helpful Tips on Being a Man in Professional Software Development

  • First of all: relax. There are more men in engineering professions than ever before; you’re not alone. What’s more, some very well-known and talented programmers are men!
  • In preparing for a career in software, learn everything you can. If you went to a school like mine, you probably found the computer science program scanty and unable to address your needs. Apply yourself hard and do plenty of independent work to overcome this deficit.
  • Studies have shown time and again that the myth of men lacking mathematical or computational ability is a complete falsehood. Make sure to have the details of these studies memorized, or naysayers are unlikely to believe you.
  • When interviewing for a software job, appear confident but not brash. Look your interviewer(s) directly in the eye and use a firm handshake; study up and be ready to reel off technical jargon when your skills are questioned. If at all possible, resist the urge to giggle.
  • Your first few days on the job may be uncomfortable. Try not to bridle when a colleague mistakes you for an intern or an administrative assistant (but make the copies anyway–it may help ingratiate you later). Correct each mistake politely, and if you hear some muttering about how you only got the job because of a gender quota, just ignore it and keep your head high.
  • Keep in mind that your mistakes will receive extra scrutiny. If you run into a problem outside your area of knowledge, you can demonstrate independence by searching for a solution first before going to a female coworker for help.
  • Everyone gets caught in a mass-forward chain from time to time. Should you open up an email titled “hot pic of the day!!! =O” and find yourself once again staring at a coquettish Randall Munroe or a wet-shirted Idris Elba, just roll your eyes and hit delete. (Of course, you may have your own admiring comment to contribute–so much the better for you!)
  • When writing out use-case diagrams, resist the urge to refer to hypothetical agents with male pronouns. Chances are you’ll just be seen as “trying to make a statement,” and may gain a reputation for being outspoken. Stick with third-person plural, or, if you must, “she or he.”
  • Similarly, when the leader of a meeting addresses you collectively as “ladies,” let it slide. No one likes a nitpicker.
  • Should you decide to pursue a romantic relationship in the workplace, use extreme caution! Dating a superior will lead to suspicion that you are doling out “favors” in exchange for having your patches accepted or your issues escalated first.
  • Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Yes, we know you have some hilarious slogan t-shirts in your closet that can help you attract attention (and maybe even feel a little saucy). But that’s not the way to climb the ladder! A button-down, some pressed slacks and a hint of eyeliner will help ensure that your coworkers take you seriously.
  • The most significant challenge facing men of our generation is how to balance a career with one’s family and children. No one’s pretending it’s easy! But if you manage your responsibilities, take a hard look at your workload, and make out a detailed ten-year plan, you can almost certainly persuade your wife to abandon her dreams and do all the real work.
  • We all know that the pressure of being male in today’s workplace can be overwhelming. Many men have a tendency to lash out in frustration before considering the consequences of their words, especially when their testosterone levels are a little off-balance, and that does nothing to help our cause. No matter what kind of sarcastic, demeaning commentary comes your way, try to hold onto your sense of humor and your dignity. With a little luck, as long as you never lose your cool, your colleagues will eventually come to see you as just one of the girls.

I kind of wish we’d had Facebook lo, those many years ago when I was referring to coeds by pseudonyms (note that I’d already learned to fear Google).

I read Dr. Weston’s post above and was a little startled to note that people are using a pretty new website to provide that kind of (subjectively) important social function. Then I’m like, what were class rings? What were letter jackets? They weren’t totems, magically created out of pure student ardor; they were business items co-opted by people seeking to fill exactly the same gap.

Maria got her board scores back yesterday. She did better than she had hoped, which is better than most of the country! Maria is awesome!

“For example, there are two categories of people in this world: Us, and pirates.”

I think Kris and Atticus should get together and conquer the world.

Audrey is totally meta.

“Picking up the smaller, non-functioning trash can in order to put it inside the bigger, working one somehow felt very wrong.”

Audrey is totally meta. And speaking of Lexingtonians, the interweb tells me that U of L just beat UK. I’m frightened. I don’t watch much basketball, but the sheer societal hate-force involved in that matchup is an anthropologist’s dream. UK fans–undefeated this season, playing against their former hero coach–are not going to be happy. They may well just go ahead and set the entire state on fire.

“I didn’t get close enough to this bicycle tire spider to see what it was wearing (I’m not scared of all spiders, just ones who live life on the edge), but I’m assuming it had a flame-patterned skull cap tied around its head over those eight mean eyes, three of which work. It hadn’t woven a middle finger into its web; I checked.”

I twinned Audrey and Stephen. It only seemed right.

Speaking of friendblogs, I only just noticed that my first-year roommate and my friend Lauren were persuaded by the Centre PR department to keep travel journals when they went abroad. I’m pretty sure they’re both in DC (District, not David) now–Lauren living a sitcom, Ben… Ben doing Ben things. They’re both going to be President, possibly at the same time.

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